On the west bank of the Suriname River, Paramaribo is Suriname’s capital and principal port. On the north Surinamese coast, the city is 15 km from the Atlantic Ocean.
Arawak and Carib tribes originally inhabited the area. Paramaribo was based on the indigenous village of Paramurubo, meaning ‘Place of Parwa Blossoms’. French colonists established a trading post here in the early seventeenth century. The British captured the village in the mid-seventeenth century and extended the settlement, establishing sugar and tobacco plantations. Paramaribo was under British rule until a deal was made with the Dutch in 1667 by which the English took control of New Amsterdam (New York) in exchange for Suriname. Rapid expansion over the next 20 years led the Dutch colonist Abraham Crijnssen to name Paramaribo the territory capital. At the end of the seventeenth century under Governor Cornelis van Aerssen van Sommelsdijk, expansion continued and a canal system was built. Slaves and indentured labour brought over by the Dutch and British from India, China and Indonesia combined with the indigenous population and colonists to create a diverse ethnic mix still present today.
The city suffered from destructive fires in 1821 and 1832. When slavery was abolished in 1863, the city’s population was swollen by the migration of free slaves from the rural plantations to the capital.
In the second half of the twentieth century, tourism and industry increased. When the county gained independence from The Netherlands in 1975, Paramaribo was retained as Suriname’s capital.
The chief port and administrative and economic centre, Paramaribo is home to two thirds of the country’s population. Suriname’s main export is bauxite, while other exports from Paramaribo include coffee, fruit and timber. Industries include cement and paint production. Domineestraat is the main commercial centre. The city is served by rail, road and two airports—the domestic Zorg-en-Hoop and the international Zanderij airport, 45 km south of the city. There are three flights a week to The Netherlands. Educational institutions founded in the 1960s include the Anton de Kom University of Suriname, the medical college and the agricultural research centre.
Places of Interest
Lined with tropical palms, Palamentuin Park is behind Onafhnkelijksplein (Unity Square), the site of Presidential Palace. Founded by the French in 1640, named Fort Willoughby under the British and rebuilt by the Dutch in the 18th, nearby Fort Zeelandia is Paramaribo’s oldest monument. Pre-colonial artifacts are displayed in the Surinaams Museum while south of the city, the Brownsberg nature park has tropical rainforest.